Recently I was speaking with one of our clients, the President of a staffing company in New England, when he said something surprising: “I love our vendors!” Since Clocktower is one of his vendors, it was music to my ears. When I asked why he loved his vendors so much, the answer was simple: He said “Because I learn so much from them”. I was thrilled to hear this, not just because Clocktower is one of his beloved vendors, but because this guy clearly understands what far too many do not.
Your vendors are one of your greatest resources. They are experts in their respective fields who enjoy sharing their knowledge. They have a vested interest in seeing you succeed. They have an even greater interest in providing the right solutions. Sometimes all you have to do is observe to learn from them, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. Asking your vendors specific questions almost always results in new ideas and better approaches to challenges…and any smart vendor is more than happy to share the knowledge.
As it turns out, this particular gentleman wasn’t necessarily excited about our web based time sheets (although I will note again, we are a vendor of his so I must assume he loves us). He was excited about an idea he learned from his insurance agent. What could be so exciting about insurance? It wasn’t the coverage or pricing that was exciting. It was the way this agent’s office presented information to clients, blending marketing and customer service so well that it inspired him to adopt a similar system for his office. If he had not made time to actually meet with the insurance agent, he probably would have missed out on this learning experience. Instead, he has a good insurance policy, a great relationship with the agent, and a bonus – a new marketing idea!
I suggest taking it one step further. You don’t have to limit yourself to current vendors. If a sales call manages to sneak through to you, ask the sales person some questions, even if you are not sure you are in the market for their wares. We all love to talk about what we do and what we know, so take full advantage of what is being presented to you. I honestly can’t think of one person that I’ve ever had a conversation with that I haven’t learned something from. Even if the lesson was simply to avoid talking to that person again! Joking aside, your vendors are you best friends, so lean on them and you will be rewarded.